Russ Cook, a.k.a. ‘Hardest Geezer’, is spurring on an entirely new generation of runners

'First' man to do it or not, we couldn’t care less - he’s captivated the imaginations of millions all over the world.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 8th April 2024

One of the greatest sporting stories of the last decade finally came to an end this weekend as Russ Cook, now known around the globe as the ‘Hardest Geezer’, officially completed his almost year-long run across the entire length of Africa. Yeah, all of it.

The 27-year-old athlete from Worthing in West Sussex has completed multiple endurance challenges in the past but none quite like this, completing a total of 385 marathons in 352 days and over 16,250 kilometres to run the length of the second-largest continent in the planet.

Having first embarked on his epic voyage back on April 22, 2023, and sharing the news of his challenge on social media, people haven’t been able to look away ever since and understandably so.

While his claim to be the first man to have carried out the feat in history has recently been contested by the World Runners Association (WRA), there can be no question as to how much of an inspiration his story has become for millions everywhere. And just look at what it meant – to everyone:

What a man.

Having been robbed at gunpoint in Angola, kidnapped by men with machetes in the jungles of the Congo, suffered from severe back and foot problems, blood in his urine and faced virtually every obstacle you could imagine, it’s hard for anyone to imagine carrying on these kinds of circumstances.


But he still did – be it heavy downpours in the rainfoest, sandstorms out in the desert, the shock of snow in Algeria or just the gruelling heat of the equator regions, none of it mattered: he just kept going.

Bringing endless positivity to people’s timelines with his regular video updates whilst plugging away at the ridiculous daily mileage “on the ones and twos”, the simple conceit of a pretty pale ginger man running across one of the hottest stretches on Earth was plenty enough to keep tuning in every day.


There was a period where we’d wager the majority of Twitter (sorry, X), or at least 90% of British users anyway, were either checking in to see his latest progress or discovering the world of Hardest Geezer and his incredible challenge for the first time. Even 349 days in he was still pumping out the energy.

He might have been forced into a few days off through serious hospital-worthy injuries but he was never out for long.

Socials have been filled with countless people revealing how they’ve been inspired by his story Russ Cook’s mindset of never giving up.

One person wrote: “Keep telling myself when I’m out doing half marathons each weekend in preparation for a marathon and the legs are screaming, ‘Hardest Geezer wouldn’t give up. I’m not either’. An absolute genuine inspiration.” As someone training for his first Manchester Marathon, I can attest to that.


Another added: “In a world that can often feel overwhelming and full of challenges, finding inspiration in the hardest geezer has been a game-changer for me. Russ’ unwavering determination, resilience, and commitment to personal growth has reshaped my mindset and personal development.

A lot of those hopping on the bandwagon can’t even resist the familiar format of his vlogs either.

Civilians, influencers and people from all walks of life and starting to put the yards in.

It’s also worth reiterating that he’s taken on challenges like these for the right reason. In addition to reiterating that running has been a salvation for him following struggles with mental health, drinking and gambling, the entire ‘Project Africa’ undertaking was all done in aid of The Running Charity.

As well as raising awareness of the living conditions as he travelled through 15 different developing countries, from the moment he set off from Cape Agulhas in South Africa until now, he’s managed to raise around $870,000 (roughly £700k) for the extremely worthy cause.

The non-profit, which works with homeless young people and Sandblast, a cultural arts charity that helps those displaced from around the Western Sahara region, was set up back in 2012 and Russ’ has now helped the raise record amounts through nothing other than running.


Nothing short of remarkable.

Hardest Geezer has become an inspiration to millions now taking up running and has been for nearly a whole year.

A lot of this could be in our heads but it also just feels like we’re seeing more and more runners all over the city and Greater Manchester as a whole as well; we can only guess that a similar uptake in running as a reinvigorated fitness trend is happening in other parts of the world too.

We even feel like we’ve seen more people wearing Hoka, the running-based sports apparel that officially sponsored and supplied Hardest Geezer with his essential kit, in the year since he began pounding the pavements and plains of Africa.

In fact, there certainly seems to be a correlation at the very least, as not only did the brand hit a quarterly sales record of $420 million (approximately £332.7m) just a few months after Cook set off and a 16% jump to a record revenue of $1.56 billion in the final two quarters of 2023.

No, we’re by no means saying this was entirely down to this one insane ginger bloke and utter running machine but it’s certainly helped put them even more firmly in the public consciousness — again, the lion’s share of the money went straight to charity.


Read more:

His mind-blowing multi-marathon challenge and insane feat of physical endurance might be over, but the journeys he has spawned as a result are only just starting.

Not to overegg the pudding, but having someone quite literally pushing the boundaries of what most would consider humanly possible has been so motivating not only for people like us but god knows how many others.

It’s been one of the inspirational things we’ve ever witnessed and we genuienly can’t wait for him to take a beyond well-deserved break and give that England shirt a wash and come home a hero in time to enjoy the Euros with the rest of the country.

Now get those feet up, lad, you’ve more than earned a year off filled with nothing but long baths, cold beers and lots of kip. You’ve got millions of us to takeover the running lark for a while.

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Featured Images — Hardest Geezer (via X)/jordancore4 (via Instagram)